Fargo- 25th Anniversary

“Fargo” was released to theaters on March 8, 1996 directed by Joel Coen, produced by Ethan Coen, co-written by the brothers and set in the upper Midwest, celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), the sales manager of an Oldsmobile dealership in Minneapolis, is desperate for money. On the advice of dealership mechanic and parolee Shep Proudfoot, Jerry travels to Fargo, North Dakota and hires Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife Jean.

Carl and Gaear kidnap Jean and transport her to a remote cabin. When a state trooper stops them for driving without displaying temporary tags the trooper rejects Carl’s clumsy bribe and hears Jean whimpering, Gaear shoots the trooper and then chases down and kills two passers-by who witnessed the scene.

Brainerd police chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) discovers the dead trooper was ticketing a car with dealer plates and that two men driving a dealership vehicle checked into the nearby Blue Ox Motel with two call girls. After questioning the prostitutes, Marge visits the dealership, where Jerry insists no cars are missing.

At the cabin, Carl finds that Gaear killed Jean because she would not be quiet. Carl suggests they should split up and argue over who will keep the car Jerry gave them. Carl uses his injury as justification and attempts to take the vehicle. Gaear kills Carl with an axe.

Marge goes to Moose Lake after hearing reports of a “funny-looking guy” bragging about killing someone. She sees Carl and Gaear’s car and discovers Gaear feeding Carl’s dismembered body into a woodchipper. When Gaear attempts to flee, Marge shoots him in the leg and arrests him. Shortly afterward, North Dakota police arrest Jerry at a motel outside Bismarck.

Fargo opens with the following text:

“This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.”

However, during the closing credits you see the standard fictitious persons disclaimer used on movies for works of fiction. The Coen brothers claimed they based their script on an actual criminal event, but then wrote a fictional story around it. Joel Coen who directed the movie explained it like this.

“We weren’t interested in that kind of fidelity, the basic events are the same as in the real case, but the characterizations are fully imagined … If an audience believes that something is based on a real event, it gives you permission to do things they might otherwise not accept.”

At the 69th Academy Awards, Fargo was nominated in seven different categories including Best Picture and Best Director but would only win for Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress.

Siskel and Ebert ranked Fargo as the best film of 1996 and Ebert later ranked it fourth on his 1990s best films list. On December 27, 2006 Fargo was added to the National Film Registry by the National Film Preservation Board.



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